Veteran former South African champion Archie Rutherford won’t be short of in-car entertainment on the RFS 400, the opening round of The Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in the Magaliesburg on March 1 and 2.
Singer and entertainer and former Idols winner Heinz Winckler will co-drive for Rutherford in the Imperial Automotive Racing Nissan Navara on the opening event of the season. Winckler’s appearance alongside Rutherford will break the mould in the Imperial Automotive Celebrity Challenge with Winckler the first entertainer to co-drive in the Nissan Navara which races under the Regent Racing team banner.
Last season Rutherford was accompanied by cricketers Fanie de Villiers and Jonty Rhodes, rugby Springbok Stefan Terblanche and Paralympics swimming legend Natalie du Toit. Terblanche and du Toit picked up top 10 finishes in the Production Vehicle category, and all four have asked to race again this year with Rhodes determined to compete on the Toyota 1 000 Desert Race in Botswana.
“Our strategy this year is to move away from only having sports personalities in the Imperial Automotive Celebrity Challenge,” said Regent Racing team Principal Terence Marsh. “When we approached Heinz he was only too happy to step into the breach.
“With two top 10 finishes among the celebrities already Heinz has a tough act to follow, but to succeed in the entertainment industry you need a tough streak and I am sure he will do well.”
Know as ‘Hunky Heinz’ because of his good looks Winckler won the SA Idols competition in 2002. Winning Idols saw Winckler drop his law studies at Stellenbosch University to concentrate on his music career.
Winckler was fourth in the inaugural World Idol competition in 2003 and his debut single went double platinum by selling over 100 000 copies. He has subsequently released a number of albums, and he performed Chasing Shadows, the theme song for the South African release of the Disney film Treasure Planet.
Winckler is married to Alette de Klerk and the couple have two young sons.
As was the case with the other celebrity co-drivers Winckler won’t be thrown in at the deep end. He will be given seat time in the Imperial Automotive Racing Nissan Navara with expert tuition from Regent Racing co-drivers Gerhard Schutte and Mathew Carlson. Schutte and Carlson sit alongside Marsh and Whitehouse in Regent Racing Nissan Navara entries.
“Competing with the sport celebrities was fun and adventurous,” said Rutherford, “and I am sure Heinz is also going to enjoy himself. With him in the car I certainly won’t try any singing.”
The RFS 400 will be based at Tarlton International Raceway on the West Rand. Entry to race headquarters and spectator points along the route is free with the March 1 prologue to determine race grid positions scheduled to start at 12:30. The race will start at 8:30 on Saturday, March 2.